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March 2, 2021
Julie Johnson Stepping Down as Hitchcock Center’s Exec. Dir.
Julie Johnson
Julie Johnson

February 12, 2021 — The Hitchcock Center for the Environment, an Amherst nonprofit that educates the general public about the interconnectedness of human health, ecosystems, and economies, recently announced that its executive director, Julie Johnson, will step down after serving nearly 20 years in the post.

The Hitchcock Center for the Environment said Johnson, who will leave the organization on June 30, will consult for “forward-thinking nonprofits that are seeking transformational change and impact.”

The center’s board of directors has formed a committee to search for Johnson’s successor.

“We cannot thank Julie enough for the dedication, passion, enthusiasm and motivation she has given the Hitchcock Center over these past years. She will be greatly missed by the staff, board, members, and partners alike,” said Hitchcock Center board president Clay Ballantine.

During her tenure, Johnson, the longest serving leader of the 59-year-old organization, oversaw creation of the “Living Building,” one of only 23 certified living buildings n the world, and the third in Massachusetts, a net zero energy building that harvests and recycles its own water, uses composting toilets, and was constructed with responsibly sourced, nontoxic materials.

The Living Building, funded by a $6.9 million capital campaign, garnered Johnson the 2017 Green Giants Award from the Western Massachusetts U.S. Green Building Council. In 2018, the Boston Society of Architects granted an Honor Award for Sustainable Design to the center in connection with the new building.

Johnson also secured the center’s new home on the Hampshire College campus with a 95-year ground lease, making it the newest member of the college’s Cultural Village that includes the Eric Carle Children’s Book Museum and the Yiddish Book Center.

The Hitchcock Center for the Environment was founded in 1962 by Ethel Dubois, a retired guidance counselor who was inspired by the works of Rachel Carson that condemned the indiscriminate use of pesticides and shaped environmental consciousness. The center’s original programming focused on a summer camp and nature programs for low-income children, primarily from Holyoke and Springfield.

The Hitchcock name ties to Edward Hitchcock (1793–1864), a noted American geologist, third president of Amherst College, and a founding member of what became the American Association for the Advancement of Science; his wife, Orra White Hitchcock, one of America’s earliest botanical and scientific illustrators; and glacial Lake Hitchcock, which began forming 18,000 years ago.

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